Analysis | What might be Causing the rise of Sudanese Youth Gangs in Melbourne

The police in Victoria have admitted that Melbourne has a problem with African street gangs, police minister Lisa Neville on Tuesday defended their handling of youth crimes. This comes after the Federal government said, “African gang crime was out of control because of the lenient policies”

Street gang’s crime has become priority issues for both sides of the major parties after a series of crimes that were televised in the news. All of them have been blamed on young African youths, predominantly from Sudan.

“We have for a significant period of time said that there is an issue with overre-presentation by African youth in serious and violent offending as well as public disorder issues,” Acting Commissioner Patton said.

According to article that was published in the Herald Sun on the 18th of November 2017, the data shows that the number of Sudanese –borne criminals between the age of 10 and 18 who committed aggravated burglary in Victoria rose from 20 in 2014 to 98 in 2016 -17

The data also showed that the number of assaults that were committed by Sudanese rose from 29 to 45 which is jump of 55%

Based on statists Australians commit far more crimes than any other group, but Sudanese are the second ethnic group.

Sudanese make a very small proportion of the Australian community, and yet they are over-represented in the criminal justice system.

So, what is happening here?

Firstly, war, the majority of the Sudanese that lives in Australia are here on Humanitarian Visa. The majority of Sudanese Australia refugees have survived the worst forms of brutality and human rights abuse Imaginable. For example, torture, rape, food shortages and destruction of homes. Studies have shown the effect of trauma especially rape, torture on the way people integrate into society. Refugees who have gone through traumatic events are more prone to stressful events. A study on Vietnamese refugees reviewed that trauma was the most important predictors of mental illness and that exposure to more than three traumatic events raised the risk of persistent mental illness. (Schweitzer et al., 2006) found that Sudanese refugees had experienced at least one of the sixteen categories of traumatic events.  The traumatic events that were frequently cited where murderer of a family member or friend, lack of food, water, and shelter ( Khawaja & Milner 2012).

Secondly, tribalism, tribalism can be described as behavior, and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group. Most of the wars that have been fought in Sudan have been tribal, for example, the Dinka’s tribe fighting with the Nuer over land rights and these wars are brutal. Sudan is so tribal that, when they flee war and are placed in refugee camps, they are separated into respective tribes to stop the fighting with each other.  This tribalism according to (Hebbani et, al 2013) follows them when they come to Australia, Sudanese culture fervor conformity, independence, loyalty, belonging to a group and views hierarchies as appropriate and accepts that position of authority come with power and privileges that should not be questioned (Hofstede & Hofstede 2005). This is one of the reasons Sudanese people find it hard to adapt to the Australian culture, which does not place too much value on hierarchies of power and is radically individualist.

Thirdly, the problem could also be due to how Sudanese view themselves and how the general Australian view Sudanese. A study by the Scanlon foundation in 2016 found that Sudanese are affected most when it comes to discrimination. The study also found that despite the discrimination they face, 76% of Sudanese said they are satisfied with their life in Australia. Also, Sudanese still find it hard to get employment despite a large proportion of them having university degrees. Figures from a focus group found that Sudanese while having degrees in fields in Law, medical and public health still find it hard to find employment in there chosen fields. The respondents also stated that they have experienced racism during their application process. The article though fails to point out that, it is hard to find work currently for any profession, even graduate nurses cannot find work.

Figures from the Department of Human Services show that among individuals from South Sudan aged 15 years and over, the workforce participation was 50.7% and the unemployment was 28.6%. The link between youth unemployment and crime is not very straight. On the other hand, we have to consider the fact, there are other minority ethnic groups that are dark-skinned, that do not find it hard to get employed. We have other minority communities that are thriving in and contribute to the Australian economy. If Australia was a racist country there discrimination should be seen across all ethnic groups that are dark-skinned.

In conclusion, this is not an easy problem to fix, what is not helping though is the Sudanese community leaders putting the criticism of bad behavior in the same category as racism. The issues facing the Sudanese community as it has been pointed out in the article are huge. Again, it is true that non-Sudanese Australians commit more crime that Sudanese, but based on the number of Sudanese we have in Australia, they should be over-represented in the criminal justice system. 

The Australian Police, together with leaders from the Sudanese community have since created a task force. Whether that will work? we will have to wait and see.

 

Readings

Khawaja, N. G., & Milner, K. (2012). Acculturation stress in South Sudanese refugees: Impact on marital relationships. International journal of intercultural relations36(5), 624-636.

Dean, J., Mitchell, M., Stewart, D., & Debattista, J. (2017). Intergenerational variation in sexual health attitudes and beliefs among Sudanese refugee communities in Australia. Culture, health & sexuality19(1), 17-31.

Hebbani, A. G., Obijiofor, Levi, Bristed, Helen. (2012). Acculturation challenges that confront Sudanese former

Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G.J. (2005). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw Hill.